I first set my eyes on Jared Lee, known as DUCKWRTH at a Rich Brian show back in 2017, he was the opening act and I was immediately captivated by his set. His set started off with a DJ diving deep into his funky world by playing “Mirage” by Toro y Moi, although not his song, he carried through with an expressive entrance. DUCKWRTH wore a British flag muscle top, skinny trousers, boots, and a slick hairstyle. He was all over the place in terms of performance: He danced, took of his shirt, and crowd-surfed. His energy, presence, raps, sound, and style were so distinctive and unmatched that it made me an instant fan.
DUCKWRTH is a rapper and songwriter who hails from Los Angeles; however, most of his musical development began in the Bay Area. He started posting music online in 2012 with releases such as the DUCKTAPE mixtape and the singles “THRILLA” and “Shaolinin’.” While it wasn’t enough to kick him off his feet right away, it gave him a framework for his sound that speaks to DUCKWRTH’s musicality, what he calls a “Jambalaya Concept.” The concept is marked by DUCKWRTH’s ability to deconstruct genres and transform them to create a unique sound. Lee’s style mostly covers funk and hip hop, but blends elements of R&B, rock, and house together. “LOWRIDR” from his debut album, I’M UUGLY, illustrates this: the song uses a boom-bap style beat and takes an R&B and funk groove topped by rap. His raps cover a variety of concepts, but mostly span around themes of coming-to-age, love, pride, and indifference– this being juxtaposed with the danceability of his groove, make serious messages all more accessible to the average listener.
Since the beginning of his musical career, DUCKWRTH has emphasized experimentation and integration in his music. From the laidback DUCKTAPE, to his 2015 collaborative effort with the Kickdrums titled Nowhere, to his debut album, and his dramatic and more intense 2018 releases, “FALL BACK” and “SOPRANO,” -all of which are a part of his “UUGLY” brand. The “UUGLY” brand represents is creativity and authenticity, which is at the heart of DUCKWRTH’s music.
Before you read the article, let’s set a premise: whatever you’re going through, I hope you get through it with flying colors. Whatever goal you want to achieve, I hope you achieve it and rid of all things that kept you from achieving prior. When writing this article, I was going through a break-up. I’d say I’m still healing from it, but I’m in a much better place than I was. The albums I listed are personal, and what helped me move-on. I’m definitely in a much happier place, and I want anybody reading this to know to trust the process of healing. These albums hold a place in my heart because they helped me face emotions in a way I’d never consider before. So, turn the speakers up, cover yourself in a fuzzy blanket, eats a lot of ice cream, and enjoy.
Kehlani – While We Wait
Label: TSNMI / Atlantic Release date: February 22th, 2019
Although this album chronicles how Kehlani’s relationship went from love at first sight to the dumpster, there’s lessons to be learned in her songs. Her lyrics recounting her experience are the centerpiece of the album. And if you listen closely, you’ll learn a thing or two. The greatest lessons comes at the expense of the most heart wrenching, twisted moments of Kehlani’s relationship. It comes at the climax of fighting on “Too Deep,” where Kehlani questions if fighting is worth staying in the relationship, and it comes when Kehlani makes her final resolution with her lover, respectfully recognizing issues in the relationship and departing ways on “Footsteps.”
This album alleviates break-up pain because it acts as a mirror, putting the reality of the situation in the listener’s face so they can go through heartbreak. The album makes you reflect. Every song offers a deeply nuanced, well-reasoned reflection that leads the listener to come up with their own conclusions about their relationship. Her songs bring up conclusions such as, “If you are questioning your worth, then it was the right thing for you to leave.” This albums gives you firm thought to help your break-up process go by faster.
Kiana Ledé – Selfless
Label: Republic Release date: July 12th, 2018
After a breakup, it’s hard to realize who you are and what makes you happy. You can become full of resentment, despair, and loneliness that those feelings can take over you. You don’t want to lose yourself in the process of recovery. Selfless is an alternative option so those feelings won’t take you over: the opportunity to resonate with those feelings. Kiana’s lets the listener know, her reactions may as well be yours too. No you’re not insane, no you’re not crazy, and no you’re not irrational. Crying over the breakup doesn’t make you weak. Selfless allows the listener to find strength in their emotional turmoil so they can find comfort and move on.
The album pushes the feelings of resentment, envy, and despair. In “Shame,” Kiana condemns her ex for being a better person with another lover than with her. On “EX” Kiana contemplates staying friends with her EX because she still loves him dearly (you know, those relationship withdrawal symptoms). This album doesn’t help you by giving you advice, but letting you recognize your feelings. It’s okay to be sad.
Frank Ocean – Blonde
Label: Boys Don’t Cry Release date: August 20th, 2016
There is nobody better with words than Frank Ocean. He’s a Scorpio for christ-sake, emotional storytelling is his specialty! No one can evoke such strong emotions. His vivid imagery, poetic lyrics, and nostalgic breakup recountals evokes strong emotions that no other artist can bring to mind. His stories are taken to another level with the production and execution of his songs– Blonde steps away from the R&B we’ve come to know from the radio. It’s even a departure from the sounds of Channel Orange. The listener hears lush synths, honey-like guitar riffs, and beautiful piano-keys instead of percussion-heavy numbers. That type of sonic landscape encourages the listener to be transported. You’ll focus on the intense emotions and triumph heard on his songs. On “White Ferrari,” The precise synth lifts you up and caresses you in Frank Ocean’s words. You almost feel as if this is the sound of warmth and clouds until the guitar strums finally find its way to give the song a slow rhythm with Frank Ocean singing above it: “I care for you still and I will forever / That was my part of the deal, honest.” His lyrics get you more emotionally entangled in his story of love, commitment, and the comfort of it.
Moments like White Ferrari exist everywhere on Blonde. Songs like “Solo” and “Self Control” make you think deeply. Blonde takes you to an intimate place that brings to mind tender and sentimental emotions, moving you on to reminiscence on the good moments. That washes out all the resentment as you begin your new chapter.
Ari Lennox – Shea Butter Baby
Label: Dreamville / Interscope Release date: May 7th, 2019
Ari Lennox’s Shea Butter Baby celebrates independence so that the newly-heartbroken can embody liberation. Ari Lennox wants her listeners to triumph in their new environment. However, Ari lets listeners know that it isn’t always easy being alone. This will always happen on your journey. Emotions spill on the tracks “Whipped Cream” which entail Ari’s insecurities that broke her relationship. She sings about how she wishes she wasn’t jealous and so old. Although sad songs exist on Shea Butter Baby, they only reinforce the triumph Ari Lennox reaches post-relationship. The flavor of Shea Butter Baby hides within Ari Lennox’s successes with new found independence. On “New Apartment,” Ari has a place all to herself. She’s reached peak independence. The New Apartment represents being set free from the chains of a partner’s expectations and judgement. No more is Ari Lennox tied down. The number “BMO” is the sexual liberation anthem– literally, BMO stands for Break Me Out. Ari’s sexual freedom only came due to the breakup, but she embraces her sensuality.
Moments like these only could happen at the cost of a breakup, but it’s worthwhile and that’s the lesson Ari teaches on her debut. So, next time Shea Butter Baby plays, pop a bottle of champagne and make a toast to embarking on a new chapter in your life!
The year 2018 has granted us a lot of music. We’ve seen numerous albums, from newcomer debuts to veteran releases. However, with all that music released, there were some major disappointments in 2018 (especially from veterans). For example, Kanye West released “ye” to bad response. The response if anything, allowed 2018 to be the year of new artists. Take a look at Cardi B and SOPHIE, both relatively new artists released their debut album in 2018 to great success. Their albums made waves in the world of music. This was all taken up a notch with 2018 officially being the year that streaming numbers did make a difference. Streaming pulled Nicki Minaj’s Queen from the #1 spot on the Billboard 200 and let Travis Scott soar to new heights taking that slot. This year, we count down between the releases that made this year so special and pivotal in the age of streaming. Here are the 50 best albums of 2018:
50. Triathalon – Online
Release date: February 16th, 2018
49. Teyana Taylor – K.T.S.E
Label: G.O.O.D. Music Release date: June 22nd, 2018
48. Lotic – Power
Label: Tri Angle Release date: July 13th, 2018
47. NAO – Saturn
Label: Little Tokyo Release date: October 26th, 2018
46. Ryan Beatty – Boy In Jeans
Release date: July 20th, 2018
45. Jonghyun – Poet | Artist
Label: SM Entertainment Release date: January 23rd, 2018
44. Rae Sremmurd – SR3MM
Label: Ear Drummer / Interscope Release date: May 4th, 2018
43. Tommy Genesis – Tommy Genesis
Label: Downtown Release date: November 9th, 2018
42. The Internet – Hive Mind
Label: Columbia Release date: July 20th, 2018
41. Blood Orange – Negro Swan
Label: Domino Release date: August 24th, 2018
40. The Marías – Superclean, Vol II
Label: Partisan Release date: September 28th, 2018
39. Playboi Carti – Die Lit!
Label: AWGE / Interscope Release date: May 11th, 2018
38. Beach House – 7
Label: Sub Pop Release date: May 11th, 2018
37. Sheck Wes – MUDBOY
Label: Cactus Jack / G.O.O.D. Music / Interscope Release date: October 5th, 2018
36. Young Fathers – Cocoa Sugar
Label: Ninja Tune Release date: March 9th, 2018
35. J.I.D. – DiCaprio 2
Label: Dreamville / Interscope Release date: November 26th, 2018
34. Mariah Carey – Caution
Label: Epic / Butterfly MC Release date: November 16th, 2018
33. Larry June – Very Peaceful
Label: The Freeminded Release date: November 29th, 2018
32. U.S. Girls – In A Poem Unlimited
Label: 4AD Release date: February 16th, 2018
31. Cardi B – Invasion of Privacy
Label: Atlantic Release date: April 5th, 2018
30. IDLES – Joy As An Act Of Resistance
Label: Partisan Release date: August 31st, 2018
29. Smino – NOIR
Label: Downtown JV Release date: November 8th, 2018
28. Kamasi Washington – Heaven & Earth
Label: Young Turks Release date: June 22nd, 2018
27. CupcakKe – Ephorize
Release date: January 5th, 2018
26. Snail Mail – Lush
Label: Matador Release date:June 8th, 2018
25. Travis Scott – Astroworld
Label: Epic / Cactus Jack Release date: August 3rd, 2018
24. The 1975 – A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships
Label: Polydor Release date: November 30th, 2018
23. Kids See Ghosts – Kids See Ghosts
Label: G.O.O.D. Music / Def Jam Release date: June 8th, 2018
22. Against All Logic – 2012 – 2017
Label: Other People Release date: February 17th, 2018
21. Daughters – You Won’t Get What You Want
Label: IPECAC Release date: October 26th, 2018
20. Noname – Room 25
Label: No/Name Release date: September 14th, 2018
19. Tirzah – Devotion
Label: Domino Release date: August 10th, 2018
18. Low – Double Negative
Label: Sub Pop Release date: September 14th, 2018
17. Saba – Care For Me
Label: Saba Pivot Release date: April 5th, 2018
16. Earl Sweatshirt – Some Rap Songs
Label: Tan Cressida / Columbia Release date: November 30th, 2018
15. Kali Uchis – Isolation
Label: Virgin EMI Release date: April 6th, 2018
Last March Kali Uchis announced her debut album was coming out in April after performing one of singles on the album, After The Storm, on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. After that the anticipation for the album grew more and more. Then after what felt like ages, Uchis released Isolation. It’s an album full of emotion and no skips whatsoever. Uchis takes on the journey of heartbreak, growth, self-love, and so much more. This album was beautifully constructed and honestly excites me for the next album. – Louis Cano
14. Rico Nasty – Nasty
Label: Sugar Trap / Atlantic Release date: June 15th, 2018
Rico Nasty has been the most authentic female rap personality to jump on the scene since Cardi B in Love & Hip-Hop. Nothing shows this more than her debut mixtape under Atlantic amply titled, Nasty. Full of rage, personality, and energy, Rico keeps everyone on their feet. Nasty highlights the best of Rico, her gritty and powerful flow, relentless style, and loud character. What makes Nasty a standout from her peers is how well done it is. It doesn’t get anymore nastier than that. – Miguel Anderson
13. Julia Holter – Aviary
Label: Domino Release date: October 26th, 2018
Jolia Holter’s Aviary is a fantastic Art Pop record that is filled with emotive lyrics and beautiful instrumentation. Throughout the 90 minutes of music on this album, Holter presents the listener with brilliant fusions of Chamber Pop and Jazz, along with a very personal lyrics dealing with love and heartbreak. – Thejas Varma
12. The Voidz – Virtue
Label: Cult / RCA Release date: March 30th, 2018
If I were to reimagine The Strokes as a more bold and electronic band the result would be The Voidz. On Virtue, Julian Casablancas doesn’t settle for what The Strokes has become in recent years. He lets The Voidz becomes a more daring and encompassing project. Virtue dabbles in a broad range of alt-rock genres and experiments with effects not yet seen on a Strokes album. At this daring capacity, Virtue lives its life on the edge, and that’s what counts here. – Miguel Anderson
11. Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour
Label: MCA Nashville Release date: March 30th, 2018
Golden Hour is an album that will make you appreciate life to the fullest extent. It’s relatable and outright beautiful. Kacey’s words make this album shine bright, especially when it’s paired with the light, delicate, and meticulously crafted instrumentation. The instrumentation, along with the raw story and emotive lyrics drive this album. Golden Hour is purely empathetic, to where she sings “Grandma cried when I pierced my nose” on “Slow Burn” to the last message of hope on the heart-wrenching piano-assisted ballad, “Rainbow.”
Some may detest this album because of the country label this album has, however Golden Hour veers past the stereotypical truck driver and misogynistic commercialized country we see at the Country Music Awards. We see Kacey insert a piece of herself into this album. Golden Hour is a pure example of how country is suppose to be done. – Miguel Anderson
10. Ariana Grande – Sweetener
Label: Republic Release date: August 17th, 2018
In 2017, Ariana Grande was plagued with the misfortune of a bombing at her show, known as the Manchester attack. Since then, she has taken the time to develop emotionally and Sweetener was born. Here, Ariana is in a state where she is emotionally mature, reflective, and personal. By working with Pharrell, she was able to turn devastation into newfound reassurance, and it’s paid off tremendously. Ariana Grande sounds realized and refined on her most serious record to date. – Miguel Anderson
9. Denzel Curry – TA13OO
Label: Loma Vista Release date: July 27th, 2018
Denzel Curry became the face of the bottle flip challenge with his song “Ultimate” becoming the soundtrack to it. The song was captured in almost every single video, and as a result, his skill was overlooked. Even I’m guilty of doing this; I pinned him as a “meme” rapper. When TA13OO released, it was definitely a shocker. This album sticks out as a highlight of the year because of how solid it is. Denzel Curry dabbles with the boldest and smokiest production yet. His wordplay is top-notch, and his flow doesn’t flee. At the heart of this project, is the brave experimentation. He doesn’t flee, but goes all in. Even when it’s something seen as soft, like R&B on “CASH MANIAC” or . He is confident
8. Let’s Eat Grandma – I’m All Ears
Label: Transgressive Release date: June 29th, 2018
This year, critics praised I’m All Ears for being a step forward for synth-pop music, and while it is, they are embracing it for the wrong reason. The album embraces the fundamentals of life. Through the eyes of two teenagers, one can expect what they say to be so pure and resonant. Whether what they say be about fun or heartbreak, they keep the same message throughout: to live in the present moment. A message especially needed right now to keep us from the hectic hustle and bustle of life. – Miguel Anderson
7. Pusha T – Daytona
Label: G.O.O.D. Music / Def Jam Release date: May 25th, 2018
Fresh out his hiatus, Pusha T proves himself still a force to be reckoned with as a solo artist and no longer just the other half of Clipse with twenty years in the game. A controversial picture of the beloved Whitney Houston’s filthy, drug infested bathroom is plastered on the cover which serves as a glance at the album’s themes: addiction, fame, luxury and loss. With Kanye West’s sonically complex production layered full with synthesized sounds paired with Pusha T’s smooth flows and haunting lyrics we’re sent down a spiral of pure organized chaos in the best way possible attesting G.O.O.D. music to be a rap powerhouse once again. – David San Miguel
6. Rosalía – El mal querer
Label: Sony Music Release date: November 2nd, 2018
If you aren’t yet familiar with the mega talented Rosalía then you need to wake up and get into her. This year she put out her second album, El Mal Querer which was highly praised by many. It all started with the first single, Malamente. Not only is the single stupid good but so is the visual for it. If there’s anyone who is doing real different stuff right now in music, it’s Rosalía. She puts her own twist on Flamenco and executes it so well. She tells us a story throughout the album about a person who goes through this toxic relationship. Each song has a set theme whether it’s jealousy, power, control, and much more. Definitely an album worth checking out. – Louis Cano
5. Yves Tumor – Safe in the Hands of Love
Label: Warp Release date: September 5th, 2018
Straight static and distorted echos is what Yves Tumor represents in a way. He represents what is not fully seen, heard, or ever transpired, but still compellingly chaotic. However, somehow melody and musicality still appears in the untraceable mist that Yves prefers to surround himself in. He’d rather let his audience ponder and guess in the mystery. There are traces of broken jazz, groove, alternative rock, R&B, noise, electronica, and pure ambiance on Safe in the Hands of Love, but what forms from it is something utterly mesmerizing. The way Yves manipulates those genres as paints to create his own art is masterful. Safe in the Hands of Love is that masterpiece. – Miguel Anderson
4. Tierra Whack – Whack World
Release date: May 30th, 2018
The album is 15 minutes and each song is a minute. With that said, Tierra Whack didn’t have a lot of time to encapsulate every genre. However in that time frame, she did. She was able to bottle almost every sound from every genre and keep it under a minute without doing too much. No song sounds too short, overdone, overstuffed, or rushed. She keeps everything tight and simple. A feat other artists have yet to match on a smaller projects like EPs and mini-albums. – Miguel Anderson
3. Janelle Monae – Dirty Computer
Label: Atlantic Release date: April 27th, 2018
Liberation for marginalized people comes in the form of not only a musical record but also an (E)motion picture with Janelle Monae’s masterpiece Dirty Computer. Monae celebrates the intersections of her identity through juxtaposing futuristic visuals of an oppressive dystopian society and dazzling pop beats – creating a world that serves as a macrocosm of what it means to be a queer, dark-skinned black femme. There is no mistake of Prince’s influence on Dirty Computer’s look and sound with the upbeat rhythms, synthesizer and bad ass attitude to every song. From start to finish, Janelle Monae keeps things stimulating, innovative and socially relevant with Dirty Computer. – David San Miguel
2. Mitski – Be The Cowboy
Label: Dead Oceans Release date: August 17th, 2018
Sometimes we shut ourselves off from our emotions. We put ourselves in a vulnerable place and resent ourselves when we do. What Mitski does on Be The Cowboy is no different, but she lives on to tell her story of loneliness. That, itself is a challenge, and to make her despair accessible is even more challenging, but she does it. While at it, she brings her most emotive instrumentation and vulnerable lyrics yet to sing about the absence of love and the consequence of refusing to accept the void. She challenges her inner-thoughts while embracing her most troubling at the same time. Beauty is shown in those juxtaposes and what is developed is a record full of beautiful self-realization. – Miguel Anderson
1. SOPHIE – OIL OF EVERY PEARL’S UN-INSIDES
Label: Transgressive / Future Classic Release date: June 15th, 2018
SOPHIE is in the midst of recreating what an ordinary pop song should sound like. OIL OF EVERY PEARL’S UN-INSIDES executes itself to that changing landscape of sound. The album is pushing pop’s traditionally accessible sound to the extremes to the extent where sound is distorted and frayed. If anything, this innovation SOPHIE has captured on her debut, is bringing music and us, into the future. – Miguel Anderson
Pop has been a dominating genre in the music industry for decades from the rise of stars like Madonna in the 80s to Dua Lipa now. The pop world is constantly and rapidly expanding with artists who are willing to go outside of the box and are unafraid to experiment, taking on new unique styles of the genre. It’s because of artists like Rina Sawayama that pop music is possibly better than it’s been in a long time. Charli XCX recently created a playlist on Spotify known as “The motherfucking future,” the inspiration for this article. Her playlist highlights artists from 16-year-old prodigy, Billie Eilish, to Indie star, Clairo, who she believes are all the future of pop music — and we definitely agree with her. We not only want to recognize some of the artists from her list but in addition discuss some that we feel are missing — here are the artists who we believe are revolutionizing pop music:
Today’s pop music is defined by innovation and fueled by breakups and partying. Charli XCX, one of the best musicians representing pop in this age, comes to embrace all three things. Over the span of her career, she has always been keen to adapting her style to the ever-changing taste of audiences worldwide. She’s come to understand what people like through songwriting for herself and others starlets such as Icona Pop, Camila Cabello, Blondie, and Selena Gomez. Now, from her experience, she is making her own pop. Her style has developed effortlessly since she came into the game, between synth-pop, rock, and now a mixture where electronic crosses with experimental, she continues to develop her sound that is full of pop sensibility and risks. These risks and experimentations, will further pop’s sound and make it more accessible to the general public. By opening the genre up to more sounds, she ultimately brings a bigger palette to pop music. – Miguel Anderson
Japanese-British musician, Rina Sawayama, brings an early 2000s nostalgia, maybe taking you back to the early days of Mariah Carey’s and Britney Spears’ careers, meanwhile transporting you to the future through her musical glitz. Her early 2000’s pop and R&B influenced music often touches on topics like (online) relationships, how the internet has changed our society, and the consequences that come with technology and social media in this age. “Cyber Stockholm Syndrome” off of Sawayama’s debut EP, RINA, particularly displays her fascination with these subjects, discussing how the line between falsehood and reality is often blurred due to apps like Instagram where people can easily paint untrue images of themselves (“Fiction/fact boundaries collide”). What’s so unique about Sawayama’s music is that not only does she implement styles that she loves from the past but she takes on a futuristic approach through both her electronic-pop sound and her insightful words about technology and its relation to social interaction in the modern world. – Ashley Flamenco
As the general interest in Hallyu and hip-hop rises, 88Rising, who has connections in both scenes, couldn’t have come into the spotlight at a better time. The group is simply taking advantage of all the fanfare. The group prides itself on being bold and eccentric, while keeping a style and sound that is consistently theirs. Their members include rap posterboy, Rich Brian; YouTube personality turned rapper and singer, Joji; colorful hip-hop quartet, Higher Brothers; sultry R&B singer-songwriter, NIKI; conscious and introspective rhymer, August08; and more who come together to make a loud statement with their music. 88Rising is the future of pop because they are already carving their own lane, boasting an inclusive community that not only welcomes Asians but all ethnicities and races as well. They’re always outspoken and willing to show their audiences something surprisingly new. Whether it be from conscious man August08 spitting thought-heavy rhymes or to the club party bangers of Higher Brothers or even to the fun and youthful Rich Brian, 88Rising is always something to look at. – Miguel Anderson
Sky Ferreira began gaining much attention in the music industry with the release of her EP, Ghost, in 2012, that includes her biggest hit to date, the drowsy, dream-like “Everything Is Embarrassing.” The following year, she released her debut, a 12-song pop-Rock gem titled Night Time, My Time. It’s been a lengthy five years since she’s last come out with original music however, with her small discography and fresh new sound, she still feels fairly new to the realm of pop and music in general. Ferreira has worked alongside producers like Dev Hynes AKA Blood Orange and Justin Raisen (who has worked with Charli XCX and Ariel Pink) to create her dreamy and almost grungy tracks. Electric guitar is the basis for most of her sound and it mainly provides the dark undertones in her music that result in her Rock style, something we don’t often hear being blended with pop. Early last month, Ferreira announced on Instagram that she will be dropping new singles soon and we are eager to see how her musical style has developed. – Ashley Flamenco
You can spot SOPHIE’s hyperpop industrial fingerprints everywhere in music. You’re bound to see her “hard-hitting” animated pop technique mimicked on every new pop, R&B, alternative, and electronic release. If you don’t see her style mimicked there, you’ll see her in the production credits of artists like Madonna, Vince Staples, Charli XCX, and Lets Eat Grandma. Her style of Pop is “high energy,” equipped with high-pitched vocals and punchy synths. Almost all of her songs sound like they came straight from a factory, giving them a very artificial and industrial feel. They play along the lines of enjoyable and utterly chaotic. One can argue that SOPHIE sounds like every other experimental pop artist today, however as SOPHIE does work closely with artists from A.G. Cook’s label, PC Music, SOPHIE doesn’t copy, she takes things up a notch instead, using thunderous bizarre sounds. She moves the style in an innovative way, fitting unconventionality to pop melodies and production that otherwise wouldn’t be there. As a result, her music is more lively and entertaining. Even hearing a single synth from her will send chills down your spine. – Miguel Anderson
Frontwoman, Maria Zardoya and her partner, Josh Conway, are the couple behind the Los Angeles band The Marias. The two make psychedelic soul blended with dream pop and Maria’s voice is the cherry that tops everything off. Maria has a unique, lush, and alluring voice; it’s soft, enticing, rather soothing, and sounds especially beautiful in songs like “Basta Ya” where lyrics are sung in Spanish. Her voice along with Josh’s drums and backup vocals contribute to the dreamy vintage California feel that their music creates. Listening to songs like “Dejate Llevar” might remind you of cruising down palm tree filled streets or laying on a poolside, both things that can actually be seen in the music video for the track.
The band released their first project, Superclean Vol. 1, last November. It surrounds the classic concept of love, covering a struggling relationship in their most popular song, “I Don’t Know You,” and discussing one partner’s reliance and feelings of need toward the other in “Only in My Dreams,” a song reminiscent of Melody’s Echo Chamber. This project has quickly been gaining attention; about two months following its release, The Marias already had their name popping up on several festival lineups including Coachella’s, an accomplishment that takes most artists years to achieve. They will also be one of the headliners for local indie festival Viva Pomona this summer. The EP has a track list of six songs and isn’t any longer than 20 minutes but that’s exactly what leaves you craving more — a “Superclean Vol. 2” perhaps. It’s a small work of art but you’ll have it on repeat after a single listen. This is not a band that you want to sleep on.
Do you ever listen to a song and it causes you to daydream or create images in your head, almost creating a film in your mind? Music videos often bring those images to life in some of the most imaginative, strange, and creative ways. A really impressive video can sometimes even make a song sound better. They are the essential visuals behind everyone’s favorite songs and a true art form. These are just five of many more music videos to come of this series that deserve recognition.
Grimes – “Genesis”
Directed by Claire Boucher
Although not even having a clear story, plot, or meaning behind the video, “Genesis” comes off as one of Grimes’ more casually aesthetic music videos. Videos for “Oblivion” and “Kill V. Maim” have more of a clear distinct style but even those can’t beat an effortless film of Grimes and her badass crew wandering around palm tree filled LA. Everything about this music video is flat out strange but in the coolest way, something that is expected of Grimes; her daringness and willingness to constantly experiment with her forms of self expression is what makes her and her music so interesting. Whether it’s an armored stripper turned rapper, Brooke Candy, dancing in the desert or Grimes dressed like a Harajuku girl, wrapped up in a giant yellow snake, Grimes has proven that she can pull anything off and make it sound and look so pleasing.
Tyler, The Creator ft. Kali Uchis and Austin Feinstein – “PERFECT”
Directed by Tyler Okonma
Fluttering butterflies, singing sunflowers, and pastel pink and blue backdrops are all apart of Tyler, The Creator’s “PERFECT” world. Tyler has always been a genius when it comes to his creative direction in filming and he has a way of making color stand out and take the center stage in many of his videos. The “PERFECT” video is a great example of this. It uses captivating camera angles, showing a close-up of the two artists in separate shots of a split screen: Kali, surrounded by flowers, sings on one side and Tyler, covered in butterflies and glitter, poses on the other. Halfway through the song, Austin Feinstein of Slow Hollows comes into Tyler’s shot playing an ear-melting guitar riff that you don’t get to hear in the full version of “FUCKING YOUNG/PERFECT.” The “PERFECT” video is simple — it uses soft colors and just a few props yet, it’s one of Tyler, The Creator’s most beautiful and visionary films.
The Marias – “Only In My Dreams”
Directed By Ian Lipton
The natural scenery takes the limelight in the “Only in My Dreams” video. It’s free of props as it doesn’t need any since the scenic snowy mountains and gloomy beach are enough to make the video so aesthetically pleasing, serving as perfect backdrops for the dreamy psychedelic track. Different angles are used to capture several scenes of couple Maria and Josh of The Marias admiringly gazing at each other back and forth and comfortingly embracing each other to display a love story that’s out of one’s dream.
Rich Brian – “Glow Like Dat”
Directed by James Defina & Brian Imanuel
“Glow Like Dat” opens to Rich Brian lighting a cigar with a blow torch as he lays on a floor of glowing neon flowers; this sets the corny tone for the rest of the video. In different scenes, Brian dances in a field of sunflowers and roses, has hands caressing his face, and smokes a cigar and uses cliche literal references to lyrics, like when he says “…smoke a cig/ put some cloves in it” and cloves fall. The video is incredibly cheesy but those cheesy scenes and the floral aesthetic of it are what represent the youthfulness and the lovesick theme of “Glow Like Dat” well. The idea behind the song and style of the video allow teens and young adults to connect with it because it’s something that may remind them of their first love or heartbreak.
Kali Uchis ft. Tyler The Creator, Bootsy Collins – “After The Storm”
Directed by Nadia Lee Cohen
You can never go wrong with any Tyler, The Creator and Kali Uchis collaboration, especially when that’s in the form of a music video. From everything from a talking cereal box to Kali’s lover, Tyler, growing out of the ground, you can see that imagination runs rampant in the “After The Storm” video. It is full of cartoon-ish visuals and vibrant colors that make it almost reminiscent of the style of Dr. Seuss movies or better yet, Tim Burton’s Edward Scissor Hands. Just as in those movies, everything in this universe is so pretty, happy, and perfect that it’s unreal.
Omar Banos, well known as Cuco, is a 20 year old Chicano musician from Hawthorne, California who is swiftly making an impact on the indie music scene. He got his start not much over a year ago, at around the age of 18, by posting music on SoundCloud and playing house parties and backyards but he quickly gained fame as songs such as “Lover Is A Day,” now reaching over 12 million streams on Spotify, from his Wannabewithu EP, went viral. Soon after, he began selling out local venues and appearing on music festival lineups. Last summer, he headlined his first festival, Viva Pomona, and just months later went on to play some of the biggest festivals in the country like Coachella and Governor’s Ball.
Cuco’s music uses lo-fi spacey sounds and electro-pop beats to tell stories of romantic relationships, unrequited love, and heartbreak. His work is something that any young hopeless romantic can relate to. He adds unique touches to his music by including lyrics in Spanish, a language he speaks at home, and trumpet solos — if you’ve ever been to one of his shows, you know that the crowd goes wild for those famed trumpet solos.
He’s credited artist like Tame Impala, Baby Bash, and Tyler, The Creator as influences and their impact on Cuco’s work is certainly noticeable, especially in recent track “Lucy”, featuring band-mate J-Kwest, where rap meets psychedelic pop. But his biggest hit yet, co-signed by Steve Lacy (of The Internet) and Kevin Abstract (of Brockhampton), has been “Lo Que Siento,” translating to “What I Feel.” It’s a groovy synth-based love ballad that fuses English and Spanish together and surprises you with a trumpet solo at the end. In the song, Cuco relays his feelings to his special someone singing: “Dreamin’ of you when I’m alone/ Baby don’t trip, I’m comin’ home…Promise you’re everything I want/ This is for you, baby listen, it’s your song.” Released in early June of last year, it was arguably “the” indie track of the summer of 2017.
There are many adolescents who can relate to themes of love and heartbreak but it’s not just the stories behind Cuco’s music that resonate with so many, it’s also his background. Cuco, raised by Mexican immigrant parents, didn’t grow up with many resources. Throughout his life, his family endured difficult financial situations however, though having been faced with several obstacles, Cuco has a long road of success ahead of him. His achievements as an artist have made him an important representative in the young Latinx community and a role model for other kids with dreams of making it who are in similar circumstances that he was once in, to look up to and be inspired by.